This platform, available in a set-top box or built into televisions and Blu-ray players, could realize the dream of internet-capable electronics that has blistered like a raisin in the sun since the day when WebTV first awkwardly attached a mouse and a keyboard to the television.
Among countless other things, Google TV could let music fans play their tunes on the best speakers in the house, regardless of whether it’s stored on their computers, in the cloud, or on the digital music service of their choice. What’s not to like?
The thing is, Google TV isn’t selling. Retailers are returning Google TVs according to a recent report, leading to a 300 percent price decrease in the case of Logitech’s set-top version — both surely humiliating statistics for Google. The musical equivalent, in the days of vinyl records, would be an album ending up in the “reduced prices” bin before returning to the record plant to be melted down.
How could Google and its high-profile partners Logitech and Sony fail with a concept that bears such great potential? What music fan wouldn’t want to use Spotify (or whatever other music app they like) on their television?
Well, because they can’t.
Google, like Apple with its Apple TV platform, has largely failed (again, so far) to make Google TV the app platform it could be — something that does to the television what the iPhone and Android did to the cellphone. Sure, you can run Pandora and Napster on Google TV, but other than that, music fans are left with promises like this one from Logitech’s site:
“With more TV apps coming to the Android Market later this year,” hems Logitech, “there’s no limit to what your TV will be able to do.”
By “later this year,” Logitech is referring to Google’s plan to harness the Android developer community to make apps for — and translate existing apps to — Google TV 2.0. Its strategy: to allow developers for Android’s tablet operating system, Honeycomb, to make their creations work on Google TV.
We’re waiting with bated breath for the Android Marketplace to show up on Google TV 2.0, whether it happens this summer or later this year. This will be the make-or-break moment not only for Google TV as a platform for music, games, and all sorts of other app-delivered cargo, but quite possibly for Android as a tablet platform too.
People have been making fun of Android tablets for months now, due to their low app count compared to the iPad. Now, they’re making fun of Google TV too, for this returns issue. By combining these two weak points, Google could give Apple TV, which Steve Jobs said was “a hobby” during its last update, and which also does not let users install apps, a serious run for its money. And unlike on the smartphone or tablet, Android would be first.
If Google’s plan works, it could even affect the Android smartphone market. Android smartphones can “Fling” audio or video to Google TV, even if most app developers seem to be ignoring that feature — once again, so far. And as Apple knows all too well, having watched the iPod and iPhone boost its laptop and tablet sales by association, it’s all about the ecosystem.
Google TV might look like a laughingstock now, but the combined influence of Honeycomb tablet apps running natively on Google TV and Fling smartphone apps sending content to Google TV could flip the script on Apple before it has the chance to turn Apple TV into something more than just a hobby.